Published by BBC NEWS - 23rd March 2022

staff at monklands hospital

Image source, Getty Images

Scotland’s biggest health board has warned it is facing Covid pressures that are “as serious as it gets”.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) said it was dealing with record numbers of Covid patients alongside high staff absence rates.

People should only attend accident and emergency units if their condition is very serious or life threatening.

The number of patients across Scotland who are in hospital with Covid hit a new record high of 2,257 on Wednesday.

It was the third day in a row that the record had been broken.

Dr Scott Davidson, the deputy medical director at NHSGGC, said its hospitals were almost at capacity and A&Es were extremely busy.

He added: “This is as serious as it gets. Our teams are under significant pressure and we need the public to show support by only attending A&E if your condition is very urgent or life threatening.”

NHSGGC said 1,332 of its 38,000 staff were off work for Covid-related reasons, with its hospitals treating 696 Covid patients – nine of whom were in intensive care.

Other health boards across the country are facing similar pressures, with Health Secretary Humza Yousaf due to update the Scottish Parliament on the situation on Thursday afternoon.

case rates 23/3

The new BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron strain is believed to have led to a surge in transmission of the virus recently, with one in 14 Scots estimated to have had Covid last week – the highest rate in the UK, and the highest since the pandemic began.

Despite the sharp rise in patients in hospital with Covid, fewer of them are requiring intensive care treatment than in the past.

This is partly because Omicron is believed to be milder than previous strains such as Delta, while most people have been vaccinated and doctors have better treatments for the disease.

However, people with Covid still need to be kept separate from other patients to limit the spread of infection – something that puts pressure on ward capacity.

Hospital admissions - 23 March

Mr Yousaf said recent weeks were the most challenging the NHS had ever faced, with every health board having to deprioritise other treatments.

But he said there were signs that Covid case numbers were beginning to stabilise, which he hoped would be followed by a drop.

The latest figures from National Records of Scotland (NRS) showed that there were 118 confirmed or suspected Covid deaths in the week to 20 March, the same number as the previous week.

Presentational grey line

Analysis box by Lisa Summers, health correspondent, Scotland

Another record has been broken this week. More people than ever before waited in an emergency department. It’s a sign of the wider pressures the NHS is facing.

With such high numbers of Covid patients occupying hospital beds, even if the majority do not become critically ill, there is little capacity to get other patients in.

Emergency department staff say they are seeing sicker patients who have deteriorated due to the pandemic. Doctors have been warning that people are dying because they are being delayed for so long.

It’s a pretty stark reminder that Covid continues to have consequences.

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